Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Apostrophe's. I Mean, "Apostrophes."

Maybe you know someone who has fits over faulty apostrophe usage. (Can we say "apostrophical usage"? 'Cause it sounds so much zanier.) I know a few such people. Actually, I am "such people," only I usually have apostrophe fits in my head, so you might not know about them.

We could talk about all the nuances of apostrophes' rules, but I just want to talk about plurals and possessives. It's not like I never err in this realm or anything, but I still just don't think the rule is that hard. Basically, you put an apostrophe in when you're talking about something belonging to someone ("apostrophes' rules," for example, or "Jenn's bad memory"), and you leave it out when you're talking about more than one of something (like "apostrophes" or "rehearsals").

Of course, there are always the exceptions, but if we just concentrate, they're not too hard. Sometimes you have to put an apostrophe in when there's more than one of something because it's already an abbreviation and people wouldn't know if that "s" on the end was part of the abbreviation or not. So, like, "DVD's," or "Jenn with two n's."

But today I was mulling this over on my lunch break and I thought, probably those people who came up with the apostrophe rules could have made it easier on everybody (and ditched a lot of the exceptions) if the rule went the other way around. For one thing, almost everybody nowadays puts apostrophes in all plurals, and none in possessives. "Possessive's," or something. Drives me nuts, but if they would have decided it was supposed to be like that in the first place, then there would be so many fewer errors. ("Many fewer"? Eh?)

Then you could have said, "Jenns two n's," instead of "Jenn's two n's," which is just confusing. Plus, it looks weird, and is nearly impossible to say, "Jennwith2n's's blog."

5 comments:

Barry Pike said...

You done spilled the can of wormses's.

Okay. So "Jenn's", as in with two (2) n's, is a possessive proper noun that craves an apostrophe. And "n's" gets one just because it looks funny with out it.

But, most (all?) possesive pronouns do not merit such special treatment. As in, "Jenn's blog has its dizzying moments of brilliance."

No apostrophe for its because it's just not right. Right?

Craver Vii said...

Thanks for the possessive pointers. I also have been occasionally guilty of catastrophical apostrophicals.

Jenn said...

I have seen apostrophicals (love that!) everywhere: church bulletins, billboards, newspaper ads, in emails from people with doctorates. Thank you for speaking out on behalf of language-lovers everywhere!

Jenn said...

Barry--yes, I thought last night as I was falling asleep that it would have behoved me to point out that I was talking about possessive nouns, not pronouns.

Craver and Jenn--I think I was using "apostrophical" as an adjective (cf. "apostrophical usage"), but I guess since we just made it up, it could be whatever part of speech we wanted. Also, Craver, you continue to be hilarious. And Jenn, I feel your pain . . .

revjas said...

Let's not forget the apostrophes in contractions of course....

I can't agree about changing the apostrophical rules, however. Then we'd have to change other rules on the basis of usage -- and let people be correct when they say, "Him and Jenn happen to disagree with you and I."

Which is just WRONG if language is not to be totally divorced from meaning and the cosmos is to be kept from disintegrating into chaos. Apostrophical change could result in apocalyptical disintegration and apopleptical meldown for many of us.

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